It’s late in the season for this Wisahkecahk story – so you may have to look for some snow while you’re listening – but thanks to Ben Godden for his amazing work transcribing the story-telling juggernaut that is Solomon Ratt at high speed, and permitting me to share it here. The story was recorded in February 2017 at a Cree Storytelling Camp, held at Youth Haven, Big Stone Lake (near LaRonge) Saskatchewan. Not only did Ben do the slow, meticulous work that transcription into accurate SRO demands, he went on to master the video-editing techniques to allow fellow learners to watch and read at the same time. mâmaskâc!
He also provided the text-only version (printed below) of the Cree for readers whose reading is becoming more fluent.
Looking for the English? It’s not transcribed yet, but Sol re-tells the story in English in the video beginning at about 5:43 of the video.
Scroll down even further for a a second (English) version of the story as told by Billy Joe Laboucan (and added here with his kind permission!) As Billy Joe observes, “there are so many versions of Wisahkecahk stories … often I hear people say that is not the way I heard my mother/father/grandparents tell that story… for me I appreciate the diversity of our legends/stories and the personal flavours of the storytellers.”
Solomon: heh heh, ikwa mīna wīsahkīcāhk nītha nīkān nika-ācathōhkān. wīsahkīcāhk nika-ācimāw. ikwa Ben ikota ohci kita-ācimow ikwa kīsta cī?
Gerald: nīsta (ni)ka-ācimon.
Solomon: āha, kīsta (ki)ka-ācimon. ikosi. kipīhtawin cī? āha. hēy, piyakwāw īsa wīsahkīcahk kī-pa-pimohtīw māka mīna ōma -ay- kītahtawī īsa kā-wāpamāt apisci-kīskisīsa ī-otinamithit māna oskīsikothiwa. ikwa māna ī-ohpiwīpinamithit. ikwa māna kāwi oskīsikothihk ī-pī-pahkihtinithiki: pwak pwak. ikosi. hāw, mamāhtāwinawīw māna ikwa awa.
tāpwī kimamāhtāwisin. “mahti iyako kīkway kiskinwahamawin?”
“awas wīsahkīcāhk! kihci-isīhcikīwin ōma: namōtha kītha pakwanita (ki)kakī-kiskinwahamātin!” itik.
āh ati-sipwīhtīw wīsahkīcāhk ī-kisiwāsit nawac poko. ikwāni ikota nitawi-wawīsīhisow: tāpiskōc kisītiniw ī-isīhisot. ikota ī-pīci-pimohtīt pāskac ī-wākohtīt ōma, tāpiskōc kisītiniw ikwa “ayayā! nistikwān!” ī-itwīt. ikwa kitimākināk ōho apisci-kīskisīsa.
“hāw, cīskwa nimosōm! kika-kiskinwahamātin. kīspin otinamani kiskīsikwa, ōta ohci ikwa ispimihk isi-wīpinamani ithikohk kāwi ta-pahkihtihki kiskīsikohk ikota. namōtha awasimī kika-tīyistikwānān” itik.
“haw, mahti kiskinwahamawin nōsisim” itwīw.
ay, ikosi kā-kiskinwahamawāt ī-ay-isi-wīpinamithit ispimihk ī-ay-isi-wīpinamithit ōho oskīsikwa: pwak pwak.
ay, cīhkīthihtam ikwa ōta pithīsis kā-itwīt: “iy, ohcitaw poko ikosi ta-itōtaman ispī tīyistikwānīyani. kāwitha māka pakwanita mītawākī.”
itwīw īsa “ah, namōtha nānitaw nōsisim. namōtha nika-mītawākān iyakwānima.” ikwa ikota ati-sipwīhtīw wīsahkīcāhk ī-wākohtīt tāpiskōc kisītiniw. ikwāni ikota kā-sipwīhtīt ikwa kāwi wīsahkīcāhk isinākosiw. ikwāni ikota hā! kwayask kīkway kihci-isīhcikīwin ī-kiskinwahamākot pithīsīsa itokī kā-ati-sipwīhtwīt. kā-wāpahtahk īsa ikota -aya – nīpisiya. tāpwī poko ani “ayayā! nistikwān! nitīyistikwānān!” itwīw. ikwāni ikota oskīsikwa otinam ispimihk isi-wīpinam kāwi māna kā-pahkihtinithiki: pwak pwak – oskīsikohk. “ha ha ha, ah tāpwī iyako kihci-isīhcikīwin mamāhtāwan ikosi ī-ati-sipwīhtīt.
ikwa mīna kīhtwām kā-wāpamāt kotaka nīpisiya: “ayayā! nistikwān!” kā-itwīt ikwa mīna otinam oskīsikwa ispimihk isi-wīpinam: pwak pwak. kā-pahkihtinithiki ostikwānihk kāwi ikota ati-pimohtīw. kakwātaki ī-cīhkīthihtahk ōma. kihci-isīhcikīwin ī-kiskinwahamāht.
ikwa mīna kā-wāpamāt kotaka nīpisiya. nīpisīhkopāhk awa. ikwāni ikota īsa “ayayā nitīyistikwānān!” ikwāni ikota otinam ikwa mīna oskīsikwa ispimihk isi-wīpinam: pwak pwak. kāwi pahkitinithiwa. “wahwā! mamāhtāwan anima kīkway. tāpwī kihci-kīkway!” ikwāni ati-pimohtīw. ikwa mīna kā-wāpamāt nīpisīhkohpāwa ikota mīna “ayayā! nistikwān!” ikwāni ikota ohci kā-otinahk oskīsikwa ispimihk isi-wīpinam. ah! wah! osāmi wathaw isi-wīpinam ikwa kītahtawī poko ohpimī ita kā-pahkihtinithiki ikwāni īkā ī-wāpit ī-nitawi-nitonahk anihi anita oskīsikwa. kītahtawī māna kā-cahkāpahokot awiya. “ayayā!” itwīw.
ay, ikwa māna ī-natonahk ōho oskīsikwa. kā-cahkāpahokot awiya; “ayayā!” nitonam ōho “tāniwīha tāniwīha niskīsikwa” ikwāni kītahtawī kā-cahkāpahokot; “ayayā!” ita māka ī-cahkāpahokot mitoni ī-ati-tīyistikwānīt. āh kītahtawī poko kā-pīhtawāt ōho ita ī-pāhpithit; “hī hī hī hī hī hī!”
iy! nisitohtawīw iyakoni ōho ita mahkīsīsa māka mīna ī-nanōthacihikot. “ah, cīskwa mahkīsīs, kika-kaskinahamātin.” ikwa ikwa ikota ati-pimitācimow. mistikwa miskawīw ikota. “awīna ōma kītha?”
“minahik ōma nītha.”
“hāw kītha kā-nitawīthimitān mahti īsa. pikiw nika-otināw ikota ohci.” ikota pikiwa otinīw minahikohk ohci. ikwa omisi isi itinīw. ī-wa-wīwīkināt ikota kītahtawī ikosi ī-wāskāthik kīkway tāpiskōc ikota pwak oskīsikohk astāw. ikwa mīna kotak otinīw. ī-wa-wīwīkināt ikota. mitoni ī-mithosit ana pikiw. ikota pwak kā-ahthāt ikwa mīna wāpiw. ah tāpwī kihci “ah, tāniwā ana mahkīsīs” kā-itwīt. pimohtīw ī-nitonawāt osīmisa mahkīsīsa. iy, wāpamīw ikotī ī-matwī-nipāthit. “tānisi māka ōma kāwi ī-isi-kiskinwahamawak awa kita-kī-nipahak. hāw namwāc osām nawac nānitaw ta-itōtawak. hāw, mahti nika-pōnīn ita kā-nipāt kita-wāskākotīk ikota iskotīw. kita-nipahihkasot awa mahkīsīs” ī-itwīt.
ikwāni ikota pōnam. ikota ī-kotawīt wāskā ita kā-nipāthit ōho osīmisa mahkīsīsa. ikwa ati-kwāhkotīw anima kotawān ikota ikwa kītahtawī poko mahkīsīs kā-koskopathit. wāpahtam iskotīw misiwī itī ī-wāskā~ ī-wāskā-pasitīthik ita kā-kī-nipāt. “iy, namōtha nānitaw” itīthihtam. tāpwī pokw āni kwāskohtiw omisi isi ikota ispimihk isi. ī-awasiwī-kwāskohtit animīthiw iskotīw ita ohci ī-ati-pāhpit. ikwa osōsihk poko kā-ati-pasisot īsa ahci poko ikota anohc ka-wāpahtīnaw ī-wāpiskāthik osōs awa mahkīsīs. ikwāni iskwīthāc ī-miskosit. ikwāni.
Okay! ikosi īsa. kinisitohtīn? Okay, piyakwāw īsa – yaw! ī-kī-wī-ākathāsimoyān ōma!
Wisahkecahk and the Chickadees:
Billy Joe Laboucan’s English Telling (2017)
Wisahkecahk was the Creator’s helper who protected animals and the earth; and taught people how to treat each other with respect. Some say that he is still out there….
Once upon a time, Wisahkecahk was taking a walk on a path that led through a stand of poplar trees and willows. He noticed chickadees on the willows laughing and having such a good time.
Wisahkecahk always curious, had to see what the chickedees were doing to be so giddy, almost falling over from laughter. As he walked closer, he saw that the chickadees were throwing their little eye balls in the air, then when they would fall back into their eye sockets; they would laugh so hard. They would roar with laughter and flap their little wings happily.
Wisahkecahk fascinated, watched for a few minutes. Then he walked up and asked, “Hey little brothers and sisters! Why are you doing that? That looks like so much fun!” The chickadees didn’t answer right away, and Wisahkecahk again asked, “Why do you do that?” To which the chickadees replied, “We are throwing our eyes up like this, it’s like medicine. It cures our headaches, or whatever is making you sick.”
“Oh, my little siblings, you must show me how to do that too!” Wisahkecahk exclaimed.
“No, we can’t show you how to do this Wisahkecahk because you aren’t a chickadee. And, if you lose your eyeballs, you will go blind. We wouldn’t be able to help you.”
But Wesahkecāhk wouldn’t take no for an answer, and said, “Please, please little brothers and sisters, please show me. I can cure myself if I get sick.”
“Well, okay, we will show you Wisahkecahk, but your must promise that you won’t over do it and go blind! Because we can’t help you if that happens.” The chickadees said.
“Yes, I promise.” Wisahkecahk said.
The chickadees then showed Wisahkecahk how to take his eyeballs out, throw them up in the air; and how to make them fall back in. Wisahkecahk thanked the chickadees; and starting walking away. “Remember, don’t overdo it! Or you will go blind.” The chickadees warned him again.
Wisahkecahk walked a short distance, and said, “Oh! Oh! I have a headache. I have to cure myself.” He stopped and took his eyeballs out and tossed them in the air a short distance. Then when they fell back into his eye sockets, he felt so good that he shouted, “Yoohoo!” And he jumped around and laughed. But that good feeling stopped rather shortly.
Wisahkecahk thought, “If I throw my eyeballs higher, I will probably feel that much better and longer.” So, again, he threw his eyeballs into the air, higher. And he felt that much better and longer.
Then Wisahkecahk took out his eyeballs again, and threw them up much higher. When he did, a gust of wind caught them and blew them away. They landed in the leaves and grass under the trees.
Suddenly, Wisahkecahk realized that he was blind. He started crawling around and crying, “I lost my eyeballs. Someone help me! Help me!” Snot was running down his face.
The chickadees heard him pleading for help, but they flew away. They had told Wisahkecahk that they wouldn’t be able to help if he abused his cure and lost his eyeballs.
Wisahkecahk continued crying and crawling around as felt around for his eyeballs. Then a little squirrel heard him, and came running. “What is happening big brother? He asked.
“I lost my eyeballs here in the leaves and grass.” Wisahkecahk cried.
“Stop crying! I will help you look for your eyeballs.” The squirrel said.
So, they looked but couldn’t find Wisahkecahk eyeballs. As the squirrel was looking he came close to a spruce tree and saw spruce gum on it. He stopped and pulled some spruce gum and rolled some into a size of an eyeball. Then he made another one, and called out, “Oh, Wisahkecahk, I have your eyeballs!”
“Bring them here, bring them here!” Wisahkecahk cried excitedly.
The squirrel brought the balls of spruce gum to Wisahkecahk; and he took them and popped them into this empty eye sockets. “I can see! I can see!” He shouted happily. “It a little blurry, but I can see! Thank you little brother.”
And that is why to this very day, when you wake up in the morning, you have gummy eyes!
©Billy Joe Laboucan 2011